Teach online with Einstein

6 Online Teaching Lessons From Albert Einstein

Inspiration for online teaching can appear in surprising places.

Who says it should be confined to conferences or journal articles?

When you teach online, the words of celebrated thinkers can offer plenty of food for thought.  And Albert Einstein provides a perfect example…

Although he’s known for re-writing the laws of physics, Einstein’s genius extended beyond his academic achievements.

He had personal philosophies on a wide range of issues, from religion to nuclear disarmament.
And, more than 60 years after Einstein’s death, many of his perspectives resonate strongly with the practice of online teaching.

Here are 6 Albert Einstein Quotes to Inspire Us As We Teach Online

1. “Information Is Not Knowledge.”

Online teaching is about knowledge

As professional educators, we know the difference between information and knowledge.

But do our students?

Ideally when we teach online, we guide students to absorb information, apply it, and transform facts and principles into valuable knowledge.

We can often see the process unfolding during assessment activities.

For example, in one of my classes I teach adult educators how to create online course materials. I guide them through an understanding of relevant best-practice principles, and then ask them to apply those principles as they develop their own materials.

By the end of the class, they can create user-friendly and effective course materials – they’ve moved through a process of transforming information into knowledge.

2. “If You Can’t Explain It Simply, You Don’t Understand It Well Enough.”

This idea is directly relevant to online teaching.

How often have you received an email from a student struggling to grasp a key concept in your course? When this happens, you simply explain the idea in a different way, ideally using examples tailored to the student’s own experience.

And while you do that, you weigh and measure your own grasp of the topic.

With subjects you know well, it’s a snap to walk a student through a complicated concept. It’s easy to make the idea relevant to them, and see them arrive at the a-ha! moment.

But this is not always the case when you teach online.

When you’re standing in for another teacher, perhaps, or teaching a course for the first time, there may be aspects of the topic you’re less familiar with. This is where the curly student questions highlight gaps in your own knowledge.

If you’re having trouble explaining the concept, you may need to try a different approach to eLearning content comprehension.

3. “A Person Who Never Made A Mistake Never Tried Anything New.”

This concept could easily form the cornerstone of your online teaching philosophy. It’s certainly at the front of my mind as I teach online.

Another way of saying this is: “There are no stupid questions”.
I often tell my students this.

It reassures them that they should never feel stupid for not knowing the answer, and reminds them that they enrolled in the course to learn! If they knew all the answers they wouldn’t need to take the course in the first place.

Students who are new to a topic will naturally make mistakes.

It’s our job to make them feel safe enough to do that, and move ahead with the confidence that a new level of understanding provides.

4. “It Has Become Appallingly Obvious That Our Technology Has Exceeded Our Humanity.”

Teach online with humanityHow interesting that a statement made decades before the invention of the internet could be so relevant to the practice of online teaching.

Too often when you teach online, the emphasis is placed on technology.

But the online teaching and learning process is not a cold exchange between anonymous robots.

Students (and teachers!) are human beings first and foremost.

Adding some humanity to the online teaching experience transforms the experience for both the student and the teacher.

Real connections are made, rapport is created, and the learning and teaching experiences become much more than a series of electronically delivered messages.


5. “It Is The Supreme Art Of The Teacher To Awaken Joy In Creative Expression And Knowledge.”

Yes, online teaching is an art!

It involves a combination of natural talents refined over years of disciplined practice. And it’s a powerful career choice.
Online teaching changes lives.

It’s part of our job to inspire our students to think creatively, and find joy in the learning process. We want them to be able to do more than regurgitate facts and figures for online exams.

The art of online teaching can have profound results, and help to create lifelong learners who understand the essential value of an education.

6. “Whoever Is Careless With The Truth In Small Matters Cannot Be Trusted With Important Matters.”

This quote is relevant to the role of trust in online teaching.

There are many ways for this leadership quality to shine through in our work.
We can set deadlines, and enforce them.
We can return student work by the date we promised.
We can be available to provide support and guidance when needed.

There are a hundred “small matters” you deal with in the course of a normal working day when you teach online.

How you handle them has a real impact.
Your approach reassures your students that they have made a wise choice to entrust their education to you.

Einstein lived in an age that pre-dated online teaching by some decades.

But his intellectual passion and curiosity about human experience make his ideas surprisingly relevant to our profession.

His words can be a source of inspiration for those who teach online, and who also want to leave a lasting positive mark – on the minds of the students they teach.

[This article first appeared at eLearning Industry.]

Image credit: jemastock @ Canstockphoto.com

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